After the 3-0 win over the Braves yesterday the Phillies are now 7-2 and have the best record in the National League. A quick start is not something this team has been known for but it can go a long way in calming the nerves of the Phillie Phaithful. They took 2 of 3 from the Braves to win their 3rd straight series of the season. Going back to last season, they have won 15 of the last 16 regular season series. Taking 2 of 3 doesn’t seem amazing, but winning 2/3 of your games is good enough for 108 regular season wins. The Phillies left Atlanta with a 2 game lead in the division and are 3.5 games north of the Braves.
After a poor start by Lee on Friday night, the Phightin’s responded with a decisive 10-2 win on Saturday. It was a close game until our hero Chooch hit a pinch hit grand slam to all but seal up the victory. Then they were able to take the rubber game from the Braves behind a terrific outing by ace number 4 Cole Hamels who pitched 7 shutout innings before handing the ball over to the bullpen. Shane Victorino was the star of the series as he was 9-14 scoring 5 runs while driving in 3 more. They were able to win series due to getting timely hitting behind great starts by Oswalt and Hamels.
“Shane did real good,” Charlie Manuel said. “He figured out Lowe a little bit.”
The Nationals enter their 4th series of the year with a respectable 4-5 record and are coming off a series win at Citi Field. But they will be without their best player Ryan Zimmerman who was just placed on the 15 day disabled list. Citizens Bank South will also be the first time Phillies fans will get to see their former right fielder Jayson Werth who signed a massive free agent contract with Washington over the off season. Even though there have been rumors of Werth’s bitterness towards the Phillies, I still think he at least deserves an initial ovation before the booing and heckling begin. He was a key contributor to a World Series team and I believe he deserves that respect. The Phillies enter the series as the much better team and a significant advantage in the pitching matchups.
Phillies: Raul Ibanez
Ibanez is off to a relatively slow start compared to the rest of his teammates. He is batting .257 and is the only member of the starting lineup to be hitting under .300. Raul has had a lot of success against the Nationals throughout his career. In 42 games he is batting .327 with 12 home runs and 36 RBI’s. He has an OPS of 1.024 against Washington, which his is highest against any opponent (minimum 100 at bats). Two of the three probable starters for the Nationals are right handed and a hot series by Raul would give the Phillies a big lift.
Nationals: Jayson Werth
Werth’s career as a National has gotten off to a slow start. Through 9 games he has just 1 home run and 1 RBI while only batting .200. He surprisingly has 22 career at bats against the Phillies. In those at bats, he has 3 home runs and 7 RBI’s while batting .318. The rest of the lineup is quickly crumbling around the former Phillie. Their 3rd hitter and best player was just placed on the DL and their cleanup hitter Adam LaRoche left yesterday’s game with an injury. The Nationals have said it is minor and it looks like he will be ready to go for tomorrow but he has to be a concern for Nats fans. If he can’t go, Werth would be one of the only Washington hitters capable of inflicting damage against the Phillie pitchers. Werth’s’ bat needs to come to life for Washington to have a chance in this series.
Tuesday April 12 7:05: Joe Blanton vs. Livan Hernandez
Blanton will get his chance to rebound after his poor start against the Mets on Wednesday night. After the offense spotted him an early 7-0 lead, he gave it right back up, as the Mets tied the game up 7-7. Blanton hasn’t had great career numbers against the Nats. In 12 starts he is 3-3 with a 5.73 ERA. He has pitched even worse in Nationals Park, in 6 starts he is 1-2 with a 6.34 ERA. But he was impressive in his last start in Washington last September. He went 7 innings only give up 3 hits while not allowing an earned run.
Joe B will opposed by the “36” year old soft throwing Livan Hernandez. He will be making his 3rd start of the season and has yet to record a win. In 2 games he is 0-1 with a 4.76 ERA. Hernandez has made 27 starts against the Phillies in his long career; he is 11-10 with a 3.60 ERA. But he hasn’t had a lot of success against the Phillies in recent years. He didn’t face the Phillies last season but in 2009 he was 1-2 with a 6.06 ERA. Hernandez is the type of pitcher who has to have excellent command or it will look like batting practice. If the Phillies are able to continue their patient approach, they should be able to have a lot of success against Hernandez.
Wednesday April 13: Roy Halladay vs. Jon Lannan
If there ever was a pitching miss-match on paper, this is a prime example of it. Roy Halladay has been brilliant in his brief time as a Phillie but he has been even better against Washington. In 11 starts against the Nats, he is 8-1 with a 1.96 ERA. In his 3 starts against them as a Phillie, he is 3-0 with a minuscule 0.39 ERA. Halladay is 2-0 with a massive 0.56 ERA in two starts at Nationals Park. His last start against the Nats was in Washington last September. In the division clinching game Doc only gave up 2 hits in a complete game shutout.
While Doc has been dominate against Washington, Lannan has been borderline horrible against the Phillies. Lannan is best known and maybe even hated by Phillies phans for being the pitcher who broke the hand of Chase Utley with a pitch during the 2007 season. The 26 year old lefty has made 11 starts against the Phillies during his career and he has yet to record a win against them. He is 0-8 with a 6.09 ERA in 57.2 innings. Halladay hasn’t had a his A game yet this season and its only a matter of time before he completely dominates a team. Doc had his first complete game in his second start of the season last year and he will be determined to go the distance in third start Wednesday night.
Thursday April 14 7:05: Cliff Lee vs. Jordan Zimmerman
Lee followed up his homecoming with a poor performance on Friday night. The damage may have been minimized if Victorino had been able to catch Chipper’s 3 run “double.” He is still an elite pitcher and back to back poor performances are a rare thing for pitchers of his caliber. Lee was originally drafted by the Nationals organization ( formerly the Montreal Expos) and has pitched very well against them. In just 2 starts against the Nats, Cliff is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA. Zimmerman is a young pitcher who has some upside but has struggled in his time against the Phillies. The 24 year old righty is 0-1 in 2 starts with an 11.25 ERA.
The Phillies enter the series with a decisive advantage in the pitching match-ups, but the game is never played on paper. It is an important that they continue their strong play before they return home on Friday. Once again it looks like the Phillies toughest game will be the series opener. They are just 1-2 in the first game of the series, with the only win being the incredible comeback on opening day. With the Phillies being the 4 time defending NL East Champs, the young Nationals team could make a statement with a strong series but I doubt that will happen. I don’t like to predict sweeps because they are not easy to accomplish but with the pitching matchups and the way the Phillies are playing, I believe it is very realistic. I think Blanton will rebound will a solid outing tomorrow night before giving the ball to Doc and Lee and I think both will have good outings. I predict the Phillies will bring the brooms out in Washington and come home with a 5-1 road trip.